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You've probably heard the tale about a chef who killed himself over a dish gone wrong. It really did happen.
Only those intrepid souls who have failed before pot and stove know the agony of culinary defeat. The disappointment of a dish gone wrong. The sagging of spirits when a first mouthful reveals a flavour quite shocking.  To the dedicated cook, it's more embarrassing than standing on the dole queue; a greater stigma  than impotency. What do you do when you've wrecked the meal and your reputation is on the line?
A total breakdown with pathetic sobbing usually works for me. But, that sort of behaviour is for wimps; real cooks adhere to the precepts of perfection over all and thus choose the only honourable exit - suicide.
However, these days mediocrity produces dreadful culinary disasters which are brushed off with a worthless apology at best. At worst, you get abused for being a whiner and not knowing what good cooking is. Nevertheless, you still cop the full bill. 


The great French chef, Francois Vatel, was no wimp and set forever the code of conduct which should be forced upon all unrepentant culinary saboteurs. When Vatel screwed up badly he  did the only honourable thing by impaling himself on his own sword. 

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François Vatel was a renowned French maître d'hôtel (master of ceremonies) and chef who lived during the 17th century. He was born in 1631 in Paris, France, and became famous for his culinary talents and his role as the majordomo of the Château de Chantilly.

Vatel's career reached its pinnacle when he was appointed as the master of ceremonies and chef at the Château de Chantilly, a grand estate owned by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, in the mid-17th century. Vatel was responsible for organising lavish feasts and events for the nobility, and he gained a reputation for his exquisite culinary skills and his ability to orchestrate extravagant entertainments.


At thirty-three, the accomplished Vatel was in the  employ of Prince de Condé as Maitre d'Hotel of Chantilly. On April 10th, 1671, preparations were being made for the following day's mammoth festivities which would  placate the fickly palates of France's leading dignitaries.
However, Vatel was not feeling well that morning and complained to his  master of dizziness and anxiety. He was mollified somewhat by a few words of praise, a pat on the back and then returned to the pressures of his post. 
As the day wore on, even the smallest problem became a calamity. A procession of underlings bore tales of further kitchen mishaps,  sauces that had curdled, not enough meat, some wines were too young,  somebody's bed was too hard and there were not enough chairs for the musicians. Taunted by stress Vatel's body and mind weakened to where his head swirled.  
He had, after all, gone 12 nights and days without sleep. The account of Vatel's alleged insomnia during the preparations for the banquet held in honor of King Louis XIV at the Château de Chantilly in 1671 has been recounted in various historical sources and retellings.
Hallucinations taunted him with a sea of voracious mouths gorging mindlessly, devouring all in sight. He begged his assistant to take charge for a while and thus retired to his chambers. 
A much needed sleep was impossible as festive fireworks menaced outside his window. Vatel passed a restless night and at first light dutifully headed for his kitchen. The cleaning must be supervised, the menu set,  and the daily provisions ordered.  As he rushed through the garden gulping at the cool, predawn air his mind raced; it was Friday; no meat could be eaten, where was the fish order, or did he forget to order? 
Vatel was now confused and unsure of his mind. He saw a boy delivering fish, a small order, the boy advised it was the sum of his order. If this was so, he had certainly become unhinged. He  imagined a murderous thrashing at the hands of the Prince amidst the mocking laughter of scullery maids. Rushing to his room, he stood by the window for if more fish were to come he would be first to see it.
No delivery boy. No fish. Nothing.
Tearing madly at the clothing about his chest Vatel groped for the spot where his heart thumped loudest and pressed his sword point upon it.  He grew faint and the sword clattered to the floor leaving behind a bloody gash. His mind raced as he saw failure, even in this his final act.  A second try, but  the sword now slippery with blood eluded his  grip. With blurring eyesight he grasped the shiny blade with both hands and  pressed its  point upon his livid breast. Lodging the handle against the door he turned and with one final thrust he crumpled to the floor. The blade had found its mark. 

Meanwhile, in  the kitchen below, many orders of  fish were arriving.  Vatel had not remembered dividing the large order among several merchants. A messenger was sent to the chef's chambers for cooking instructions. He was too late.
To avoid any fuss  the body was whisked away and handed to the local priest. As it was suicide the priest refused rites.  Friends dug a shallow grave  in a nearby field.  Exactly where,  nobody could ever remember.
The moral of this story is: If you see a chef wearing a sword you can bet he's an honourable fellow from the old school. 
And, for God's sake don't complain about the food.

The following recipe is a simple potato and onion dish I once had in a tiny restaurant beside the river Seine in Paris. it was memorable.
Potatoes on the Seine
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tbs. each butter and olive oil
pepper and salt
Heat butter and oil in a skillet. Brown potato slices each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Lightly brown onion slices. Return potatoes to pan, add garlic, parsley, pepper and salt and  toss until well heated and serve with any meat or fish.
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